Rahul, what made you to quit corporate world and led you to start your own venture Biziga?
The urge for entrepreneurship was there even before I joined IIM Indore. For 2 years in college, I considered various businesses that I could venture into. Finally, it was into a field very close to my heart - education. Job was always planned as a stopgap arrangement - to think through the plan, to learn the skills required to run a business and get valuable experience under the belt. I was lucky that my work spanned multiple areas including strategic planning, IPO process and investor relations, project analysis, budgeting and financial forecasting, PE fund raising, M&A etc. That knowledge is now helping me in taking Biziga forward.
What experience you have gained through your previous work helped you in your start-up?
During my previous work experience at Raheja Universal, I worked directly under the MD. While the company went for IPO, I was part of the team which took care of pitching to investors, technical aspects and documentation of the whole process. My core responsibilities were financial evaluation of projects and strategic planning of what the company should do in the next 5 to 10 years. In a short span of time, I’ve gained a lot of experience and on a whole the things which I learned at Raheja are directly related to a start-up.
What does a business simulation firm do?
A business simulation is a replica of real life scenarios in a virtual environment. In today’s education system, most of the teachings are theoretical. Even in the presence of case studies in certain schools, their scope is very limited as in the case studies are analysed using theoretical concepts. Each person may propose different solutions. Through business simulations one can create the real life scenario and take past data and analyse the situation in a virtual environment and then reach a decision.
Why a business simulation firm? How did you come up with this idea? What business problem you solve and for whom?
If you look at the way technology has impacted school level education, it is phenomenal. However, at graduate / postgraduate level, PPTs represent the most advanced form of technology used as a teaching aid! When you see things from this perspective, it seems very counterintuitive. Simulations represent the most effective and advanced form of teaching. In a sense, it comes the closest one can get to real life experience within a classroom. Considering these factors, it was a straightforward decision to get into this field. We are making teaching more effective and easier to deliver. So our target audience is B-School faculty and corporate trainers. Consequently, the beneficiaries include the students and executives who get trained.
Real estate to business simulation, Wasn’t it difficult to make the shift? What are the common things you found in both the fields and what are the differences?
Real estate and education technology are as diverse fields as it can get. For me, it was a gradual transition. Along with the job, I was working on simulations in evenings and weekends. Real estate is a fundamentally very long term business where projects have gestation period of 6- 10 years. Ours is a technology driven business where impact is more immediate. Real estate therefore is more about betting on future and having the patience to see it through. EduTech, on the other hand, represents a very dynamic field where adaptation and constant evolution is the key to stay ahead of the curve.
How did you finance your firm in the first place? How did you approach funders? What is your exit plan?
Initially, we pooled in some money saved from our jobs. While we were doing test runs at colleges in Mumbai, we got them to pay for it. So, all of that was used for further development. Once the product was ready and we had market validation, we pitched to investors and raised a small seed round.
Exit is still some distance away. We are in a position to define and create a new segment in India like Educomp did in the previous decade.
Was it difficult to acquire your first customer? Who are you target customers? How do you approach them?
It’s never easy to get your first customer, isn’t it? We approached B-Schools in Mumbai to conduct strategy workshop using our simulation. After about a month of knocking at different doors, we got a director to try it out and they agreed to pay us for it as well! Product was still in beta and we were very nervous but the program was an instant hit.
Our customers are people who need to teach management concepts. So, B-Schools as well as Corporate. We have a network of certified trainers who conduct the workshops for executives. We reach out to them primarily via network/reference. In some cases cold calling also works.
How is the competition in this segment? What is your competitive advantage over them?
Most of competitors are already established non-Indian players like stratx, capsim, markstrat. Most of the institutions use the products of these players. In recent times, a few Indian players are starting up in the segment, but they have not established yet.
Only a small number of about 50 institutes are using simulation as of now. So, there is a lot of scope of expansion even with the presence of established players. Most of the scenarios which are given by these non-Indian companies are not custom made for Indians. However at Biziga, we indianise our scenarios to which the local students can relate to. This is our USP. Interface is more modern and we give more control to faculty in terms of scheduling the sessions and using them. We also offer support in the form of ppts and documentation to assist the simulations.
What are the marketing strategies you use to promote the website?
For website, we are investing in SEO to get organic traffic of people who are looking for simulations. However, ours is a B2B model in a niche market so number of enquiries that we get from search/LinkedIn is very low. Our business strategy therefore is more push oriented wherein we identify the prospects and reach out to them directly.
Do you employ MBA freelancers for various projects at your company? Do you plan to hire either full time or part time employee this year?
We have not considered MBA freelancers so far. We did hire interns from IIM/IIT for summer projects. To answer your second question, yes, we are always on the lookout for talented people to join our organization. In our experience part time does not work unless the work is non-critical.
What are the future plans for Biziga?
Plans are always grand, aren’t they? We have set ourselves a target to train 1 million users in next 3 years using our simulations. To reach this goal, we are working towards portfolio expansion by developing more simulations and also towards market expansion by reaching out to corporate and colleges aggressively. We are going to expand it as products in cases where self learning is preferred as well as training programs for the corporates.
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